An Election of Change – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

An Election of Change

USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Gives President’s Forum Series Lecture

There was no better person to comment on ramifications of the presidential election than the most widely read political correspondent in the country. As part of the President’s Forum Lecture Series, USA Today’s Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page shared her experience covering the election by giving attendees an insider’s view titled ‘Breakthroughs and Bad Times: Obama’s Victory and What’s Next.’

“During this election, people paid a lot of attention to the fact that Barack Obama is the first African American president in the United States, which is a remarkable fact,” said Page, who has covered seven presidential elections and four White House administrations. “But there was less attention paid to other important changes, such as the major change in the electoral college system; how we essentially had a contest between two types of candidates, the old and the new.”

Page explained that this election also revealed an overall shift in the value of the youth vote, the impact of globalization on voting, and changes in voter demographics.

“Barack Obama had several inroads with U.S. voters,” Page explained. “First, Obama carried the vote of Hispanic Americans two-to-one over McCain; second was the participation of college-educated white suburbanites, many of whom voted Republican in past elections; and lastly, were voters under 30. Not only is this group, the Millennium Generation, the largest generation group in the country, but Obama took an unprecedented 66 percent versus 32 percent advantage over this age group.”

In trying to understand Obama’s hold on the Millennium Generation, USA Today conducted a survey, the results of which became a four-group typology that categorized the under 30 group. Page explained that the first group is called ‘Fired Up’ and consists of registered, very informed and committed voters who hated, as Page said, “…the other guy.” The second group is the ‘Upbeats,’ registered voters who are paying attention but like both candidates. The ‘Downbeats’ are the third group, made up of relatively engaged people who are pessimistic about the country’s future and didn’t like either candidate. The last group is the ‘Tuned-Outs,’ unregistered individuals who didn’t pay attention to the campaign process and whose choices were influenced by celebrity endorsements. 

“What’s astounding is that Obama garnered support from all four groups, winning the under 30 group two-to-one,” Page said. “As this extraordinarily large group of Americans gets older, it’s likely that they will continue to vote this way. Obama has the potential to have a hold on voters of this generation.”

Page opened the forum to her audience whose questions ranged from the stock market bailout, women in journalism, and Senator Hilary Clinton’s potential appointment to Obama’s cabinet. Uniquely, Page answered numerous questions then asked the same question of those who posed them.

“The interplay between Page and the audience was incredible,” said Samantha Strachen ’11 after the lecture. “This election has been such a different one with so many people fired up about it; it’s nice to have a speaker that engages many of us who have been interested through the process.”